Published on August 20, 2020 by Ashley Smith  
Steel City Pops
Photo courtesy of Steel City Pops

Rising studio art senior Emily Kent undertook an unexpected project this summer thanks to professor Larry Thompson and local business Steel City Pops.

The 12-store popsicle chain with locations across the southeast sought Samford in their search for an artist to refresh their storefront and corporate offices in Homewood, Alabama.

"We were looking for some fun murals to have in our corporate office that represented our brand," Steel City Pops marketing and social media coordinator Mckenzie Nichols said. "I reached out to Samford to see if a student would be interested in designing the murals, and we met Emily."

Thompson shared the opportunity with Kent while she was still in Birmingham during the early stages of quarantine. Kent developed the art concepts for the murals after researching the Steel City Pops brand. Her initial sketches were inspired by the natural ingredients used for the popsicles and the company's signature pop carts. Each mural took about a week to complete.

"Emily nailed the look. She took our vision and made it a reality," Nichols said. 

Kent enjoyed the creative freedom of the project and working with the staff at Steel City Pops. "It's all about making something the public will love! So, thinking about them was a wonderful motivator, and the product ended up being something that made me smile as well," she said.

She credits Samford with helping her mature as an artist in a caring community. "I have been truly nurtured here. I feel like I have been pushed in the best way and learned to approach my projects from a different perspective. I have far more creative drive and am inspired by the students and professors constantly. I've never known a community more supportive that can constructively criticize me to be my best self."

Kent has especially enjoyed her professors and their impact on her personal growth as an artist and person. "Every professor at Samford is here for a reason, and they really pour everything into us and our work, as well as help us find amazing opportunities," said Kent.

Kent hopes to use her last year at Samford to further steps toward a career merging her artistic skill and interest in fashion.

"I am trying to follow my dreams in the fashion world as an editorial stylist who works on photoshoots to put together the outfits that can inspire others to express themselves in their own confident way. My artistic background will be a huge help in photoshoot theory, pattern mixing, and maybe even my co-workers' personal relations skills. As for direct art, I am hoping to continue participating and creating shows that support real causes. Speak truths that we need to share in this society. God guides me to share these messages, and I pray that maybe just a little bit of what I do can make a small difference."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.